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Fight night turns into bite night

Mike Tyson's career takes an absurd turn when he bites Evander Holyfield's ears.


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 26, 1999

He seemed invincible until he was knocked out by Buster Douglas. From there, Mike Tyson's reputation -- as a boxer and a human being -- went south.

On June 28, 1997 at the MGM Grand Casino in las Vegas, it hit bottom in one of the most grotesque evenings in a ring (even by boxing's standards).

There had been his stormy marriage to Robin Givens, a suicide attempt (he claimed), three years in prison for raping an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant, and more jail time for assaulting two motorists.

None of it could come close to the absurdity at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas when, like a youngster with a chocolate bunny on Easter morn, Tyson bit the ears of Evander Holyfield.

The heavyweight championship fight was a rematch; Tyson had lost the WBA title to Holyfield by TKO on Nov. 9, 1996.

Tyson said the biting was provoked by a second-round head-butt by Holyfield -- it was ruled accidental -- that opened a 2-inch cut over his right eye. Tyson also had been cut by a head-butt in their first fight. "I've got children to raise and this guy's trying to hurt me," Tyson said in a television interview. "I've got to retaliate."

Holyfield, who dominated the first two rounds, told referee Mills Lane before the start of the third that Tyson didn't appear to be wearing his protective mouthpiece.

With the fighters clinching in the third round, Tyson bit Holyfield's right ear. Holyfield pulled away and leaped into the air in apparent pain and anger. While Holyfield's back was turned, Tyson ran a few steps across the ring and pushed him in the back.

Lane halted the fight and escorted Holyfield to his corner, where he was treated for his bleeding ear.

"I told Tyson after the first bite, "One more like that and you're gone,' " Lane said. He also deducted two points from Tyson.

When the fight resumed, Tyson bit the top of Holyfield's other ear. This time he tore an inch-long piece out of it and Lane disqualified Tyson. "How many times do you want a guy to get bit?" the referee said later. "There's a limit to everything, including bites."

In seconds the ring was a maelstrom of mayhem. Tyson rushed Lane but couldn't reach him. He tried to get at Holyfield and struggled with several officials who kept him away from the champion. The ring filled with dozens of Las Vegas police officers. Shoving matches erupted. A videotape showed Tyson throwing a punch at one officer.

Holyfield left the ring to loud cheers, Tyson to angry booing. More fights broke out in the bleachers when spectators began throwing things at Tyson and his entourage.

The violence spread into the MGM Grand. Witnesses said shots were fired after a fight between several men. Near-riots broke out as people ducked for cover under blackjack tables and behind slot machines when men were seen brandishing guns.

Police shut down the casino, ordered thousands of customers to leave, and barricaded several streets.

"This is a sad day for boxing, there's no doubt about that," said Don Turner, Holyfield's trainer. "But don't blame the sport. Blame the people in the sport."

-- Information from Times files was used in this report.

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